It’s a sweltering summer night in 1967 on Chicago’s West side. The building, occupied exclusively by impoverished blacks, ought to have been condemned, but this is Chicago, after all, and certain legalities have a way of slipping through the cracks. At around 2:30 a.m. the call comes in to the fire station.
By the time firefighters arrive, the top two floors of the five-story tenement are pretty well involved. Smoke pours from exploded windows, flames and embers flicker into the night sky. Police arrive to hold back converging neighbors and displaced, distraught residents as the company proceeds to attack the blaze.
A firefighter crawls on his belly under a thick layer of smoke, hose in hand, across a room on the third floor below the main conflagration, having entered through a window. As he nears the middle of the room, the floor gives way, and he crashes through to the second floor.
Then he crashes through to the first floor.
Stunned, entangled in the hose and dangling, he writhes cursing in midair until his colleagues are able to access the first floor and get him out. Later, it is discovered that the floors he fell through had been pre-cut by those who set the blaze.
The unlucky firefighter figured that out while he was hanging there, of course. This kind of thing happens all the time.
The incident, related to me by a former Chicago firefighter, left me appalled despite my knowledge that landlords and tenants and criminals in major U.S. cities routinely torched buildings during that period. What I found appalling was the reason for the type of arson that was being described.
“We were part of ‘the system,’” I was told. To urban black nationalist types of the era, firefighters were considered an easy target – all you had to do was set a fire and they’d show up.
“It was common to arrive at a fire and have guys falling through staircases they’d cut,” the ex-firefighter says. “If you went down there during the day and talked to kids, 5-, 6-years-old, they could tell you which building was going to burn next. They knew …”
I listened to several stories of firefighters being put at risk in the ways described above, or lured into neighborhoods on false alarms and beaten nearly to death by gangs of angry black men.
So quickly we forget. Back in the ’60s, when Martin Luther King Jr. and others were espousing peaceful change and civil-rights legislation was being passed, there were those for whom progress was never going to be good enough. Those who advocated violent change got a lot of press. Guns, baby, guns …
It was a volatile time – but do most of us really know why?
I remember growing up with the popular caricature of a grizzled, old, right-wing white guy railing against the “bearded commie so-and-sos” who were “taking over the country.” He got a lot of press, too.
He was also right.
I’ve written before about growing up seeing a generation of black kids (whose parents worked hard and owned property and businesses and so forth despite the prevalent social injustices of the day) throw their lives away on drugs, promiscuity and sloth because people with a social agenda convinced them that “The Man” had it in for them.
Although my example highlights race, of course it isn’t about race at all. Once you get past ameliorating the legal injustices, ignorance, fear and lack of individual character, what you have is an industry of civil-rights activism coordinated by socialists – and indeed, some communists – who have insinuated themselves into the mainstream. For them, fomenting class warfare – engaging in the politics of victimhood – is what it’s always been about.
That’s how you wind up with those among the urban poor for whom murdered firefighters are vanquished enemy combatants and their own neighbors are collateral damage. It is – if it isn’t obvious yet – the same logic used by radical Islamists when they blow up a school bus or saw off some unfortunate’s head on camera.
Some of those who now hold high public office and plum media jobs are among those who pushed for violent change in the ’60s, people who during their college days believed that Fidel and Che and Mao were righteous guys. Much of the rhetoric being employed by activists now – whether they be minorities, gays, or environmentalists – is the same as that used by the “bearded commie so-and-sos” nearly 40 years ago.
Saying that the national election of 2004 was about one side being “out of touch” with mainstream America is oversimplification to a monumental degree. The national election of 2004 was the first spasm of America beginning to regurgitate the indigestible mass of internationalist secular socialism that has been growing in its belly for decades. It was about enough people of conscience finally realizing that they actually had to get out and vote in order to have any hope of stemming the tide.
The high-flown, intellectual analysis we’ve seen in the news since the election is nothing but pretense. The only thing the other side has realized is that they’ll have to lie a whole lot better next time.